U.S. Congress meets on Sunday to vote on COVID-19 reduction and spending bundle

© Reuters. The dome of the US Capitol can be seen in Washington at night

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Congress stood ready to vote on a $ 900 billion coronavirus aid package on Sunday after Senators reached a nightly compromise to overcome one of the final hurdles, a dispute over the Federal Reserve Pandemic Lenders.

Senate Democratic Chairman Chuck Schumer told reporters at the US Capitol late Saturday night, "If things continue on this path and nothing stands in the way, we can vote tomorrow."

Congressional leaders plan to attach the coronavirus aid package, which includes $ 600 in direct payments to individuals and a $ 300 weekly unemployment benefit, to a $ 1.4 trillion spending bill to fund government programs by September 2021.

You face a new government funding deadline at midnight on Sunday (Monday at 5:00 a.m. GMT) and risk a government shutdown without action. The House of Representatives was due to meet at noon ET (1700 GMT) to take the bill.

"I'm optimistic it will happen," House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said in an interview on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo program. "I am very hopeful that we can do it today."

President Donald Trump, whose administration has largely left the negotiations to the Congress leaders, complained early Sunday morning that no agreement had been reached.

"Why is Congress not giving our people an incentive? It wasn't their fault, it was China's fault," Trump said on Twitter. "Get it done and give them more money on direct payments."

Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, had insisted on language that would guarantee the central bank would not be able to revive emergency loan programs for small businesses, as well as state and local governments after December 31, if they were COVID-19 under the CARES Act Law expire passed in March.

Republicans had said the programs were unnecessary state interference in the private sector that the Fed is politicizing. They accused the Democrats of wanting to extend it until 2021 to provide unchecked funding for state and local governments controlled by members of their party.

Democrats, in turn, accused Republicans of attempting to tie the hands of the Fed in an attempt to limit Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's ability to fuel the ailing economy after taking office on Jan. 20.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on CNN Sunday, "I think there will be a deal. There are always sticking points, but the big one was resolved last night … They are working on some extra points. But I think it will be done. It will be done before Christmas. "


Steve Kelly, spokesman for Toomey, said the senator's agreement with Schumer "suspends unused CARES Act funds of more than $ 429 billion, terminates CARES Act credit facilities for good by December 31, 2020 restart these facilities and prohibit their reproduction without Congress approval. "

However, a senior Democratic adviser said Toomey had agreed to "drop the broad language in his proposal that would have prevented the Fed chairman from setting up similar facilities in the future."

The Senate adjourned a rare Saturday session with a call from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to avoid last-minute disagreements that could delay new funding for Americans and small businesses.

Following news of a compromise on the Fed issue, McConnell spokesman Doug Andres said, "After the Democrats approve a version of Senator Toomey's important language, we can close the rest of the package to provide much-needed aid to families to let." Workers and companies. "

In the eleven months since the first cases of the new coronavirus were documented in the US, COVID-19 has killed more than 316,000 Americans, by far the most in the world, and left millions of people unemployed, with unemployment rising. Economists say growth is likely to remain sluggish until vaccines become widespread by mid-2021.

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